Ladins of Italy

Location: mainly Bolanzo province of Italy
Population: 35,000 (est.)
% of population: 4% of Bolzano province
Religion: Catholic
Language: Ladin

The Ladins are a small minority whose language is a dialect of the Rhaeto-Romanche family of languages. The majority of Ladins live in northern Italy, mainly in the Valle Gardena and the Valle Badia. They have for centuries maintained political allegiance to Austria and to the German-speaking minority of South Tyrol. In 1810 they appealed unsuccessfully to prevent their annexation by Italy and throughout the nineteenth century they resisted all attempts to assimilate them.

Until World War I Ladin was taught in primary schools, but from 1921 under Mussolini this practice was banned as was the word Ladin. In 1939 the governments of Germany and Italy reached an agreement on evacuation under which some 2,000 Ladins left the South Tyrol for Austria in order to escape deportation to other parts of Italy. A Statute of Autonomy passed in 1948 once more allowed the teaching of Ladin during the first year at primary level in Trentino, but not in the provinces of Trento and Belluno, where there is still no provision for the teaching of Ladin despite a campaign led by the Ladin media and intellectuals.

Calls for the unification of all Ladin-speakers in the Dolomite Alps within a single administrative unit are unlikely to achieve their aim as the Ladins themselves are a diverse group living amidst Italian and German speakers. Ladins continue to identify their cause with that of the German speakers of South Tyrol; most are politically and socially conservative and give their support to the Südtiroler Volkspartei.

(See also Friulians; Romantsch speakers of Switzerland)